New Orleans Lawmakers Sponsor Bill to Weaken Authority of Mayor Latoya Cantrell

by Xara Aziz
FOX 8 via YouTube

A new report has confirmed lawmakers in New Orleans have co-sponsored a number of bills that would weaken the authority of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, an embattled politician who has been under numerous scandals since she took office in 2018.

“For the better part of two years, the City Council has secured more power by convincing voters to give it authority over mayoral appointees, forcing out a top Cantrell aide and, at times, and freezing departmental budgets to force the administration to comply with its demands,” according to a NOLA report.

The moves signify one of the largest political injury to mayoral influence in New Orleans, according to analysts, who say the mayor’s critics are trying to take hold of a power vacuum constructed by her observed unpopularity.

“This has never happened before on such a multi-institutional, multi-layered level, between the state and the City Council and the various boards,” Silas Lee, a pollster and sociology professor at Xavier University told NOLA. Lee, who worked for Cantrell during her first campaign, added that the mayor’s opponents “see signs of weakness.”

“When the alligators smell blood in the water they don’t turn away — they attack.”

The news comes on the heels of a recent report that revealed Cantrell “fumbled” a multi-million-dollar grant given for green infrastructure projects throughout the city.

According to NOLA, a federal watchdog revealed Cantrell’s administration misallocated funds and planned poorly, denigrating the city’s attempt to stop stormwater from destroying parts of the area.

An audit released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General said that there was a significant mishandling of a grant-funded program aimed at enhancing New Orleans homes’ resilience to flooding. Despite being previously lauded as a success by the city, the program, which included the installation of porous pavement and other upgrades, instead rendered some properties more susceptible to flooding.

Conducted over nine months until July 2023, the audit highlighted that construction had not commenced on any of the eight infrastructure projects funded by the $141 million grant in the “Gentilly Resilience District.” These projects were intended to mitigate stormwater by redesigning green spaces to prevent overflow into the city’s drainage system, which often struggles to cope.

According to the audit, New Orleans had to cancel two projects due to the lack of agreements with landowners and utility providers. While the city informed HUD that it plans to revive these projects (one focused on stormwater reduction in Milneburg and another on establishing a microgrid for backup electricity) the auditors noted a lack of documentation to support this claim. They recommended that HUD collaborate with the city to explore alternative uses for the $14.4 million allocated to these projects.

“With more than seven years having passed and the city’s history of insufficient planning, no staffing plan, insufficient staffing and depleting planning and administration funds, we are concerned that the city will not be able to complete these projects,” the auditors said.

According to Brenda Breaux, a senior-level official in Cantrell’s administration, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority hired a licensed engineer to assess the conditions of the properties mentioned in the audit, and it was determined that the modifications had no major impact on their effectiveness.

The audit findings are misleading because they rely “on a small number of perceived challenges reported by individual participants, as well as superficial observations and generalizations that reflect limited understanding” of the program, Breaux said.

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